RICHMOND – Despite the rain and cold, Virginia Commonwealth University students rallied to send their men’s basketball team off to Houston for the Final Four game on Saturday.
The send-off started at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday outside the Siegel Center. About 2,000 students and fans braved the cold as they eagerly waited for the players to make their way to the bus. The fans showed off their school spirit by dressing in black and gold while waving signs.
Current students weren’t the only ones who turned out for the event. Sarah Sherman, a VCU alumna, attended to cheer on the team.
“The whole city is excited and thrilled,” Sherman said.
As the crowd waited, they chanted “V-C-U” and “We Want Butler.” (The Rams will play Butler University in the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.)
Some students watched the events from a nearby parking deck, while others got as close to the team bus as possible.
Maria McNealy, a VCU junior studying accounting, had a spot close to the action.
“It’s never been anything like this,” said McNealy, who is from Woodbridge. “Everyone has school spirit; everyone’s wearing black and gold. The morale is ridiculous.”
The crowd cheered loudly as the players walked to the bus. The loudest cheers from the crowd were for head coach Shaka Smart. Some Ram fans fear that because of his success here, Smart will leave VCU to coach for a bigger basketball program.
Andrew Phillips, a VCU senior majoring in broadcast journalism, says he can’t believe that his dream of going to the Final Four came true.
“I’ve been a VCU fan my entire life; my parents went to school here,” Phillips said. “This is an amazing ride, and I’m glad that I’m a student here and get to go along for the ride.”
After VCU’s team and cheerleaders boarded three buses, they were led out to Broad Street by a fleet of motorcycle police. The buses honked their horns as they headed to the Richmond International Airport, and the fans waved and cheered goodbye.